Netflix made the wise decision, five years ago, to give actor/writer/producer, and now director, Aziz Ansari, and Alan Yang, the green light to create the quirky comedy “Master of None.”
It was 2015 and from year one, it was one of the streaming platforms’ successes and demonstrated inclusion and diversity — correctly. A preview, if you will, of how storytelling in the future, from traditional broadcasting and the cable should be presenting.
“Master of None” is Dev’s (Ansari) story, a struggling actor, and his love affair with New York City. The series connected with an audience immediately and in one of the first episodes, they weaved touching flashbacks of Dev’s father (played by Ansari’s own) and the father (Clem Cheung) of his friend Brian (Kelvin Yu) who shared their immigration stories. Keeping the theme of being other in America, the series explored the consistent misrepresentation and the humiliation of stereotypes in “Indians on TV.” Devi fell in love in the middle of the series and later smashed that relationship. In season 2, he went to Italy, on a very “Eat. Pray. Love” journey where he nursed a broken heart and met another woman who would eventually break it again.
But what made Season 2 unique was the episode “Thanksgivings” which propelled co-star Lena Waithe into the spotlight where she won an Emmy for co-writing the script with Ansari. On the surface, the episode looks simple, almost unremarkable. Telling the story through a series of fast-paced flashbacks, Denise (Lena Waithe) begins the arduous process of coming out, as a lesbian to her mother (Angela Bassett), and stepping into her truth.
Now in season three of “Master of None” (“Master of None Presents: Moments of Love”) pushes into Denise’s life, now successful and living in an upstate home where she moved with her wife, Alicia (Naomi Ackie). Actress Ackie owns this season—utterly. Directed by Ansari this is a very different season, on film, he chooses long takes choosing, often, to keep the camera in one position, with the actors walking into the frame. It’s unsetting but it does demand that you look, closely, at a Black queer couple in all their complexities.
The stylistic gambit grows tiresome and it feels lazy and indulged. The choice of not moving the camera, I assume, is to mimic the feeling of being that proverbial “fly” in the room, able to experience someone’s most intimate moments, but the cinematic result is a boring series.
Now — to the acting — Naomi Ackie owns the show. I’ll go further, Ackie owns every frame she is in. She is also
an executive producer on this season.
Episodes 1-3 are like watching paint dry but episode four, which focuses on Ackie’s character rather than Waithe’s is worth watching because of her. Under director Ansari, Denise lacks emotion, he chooses to train the camera on the moment where the character is simply sitting, eating, staring at what? Who knows and frankly, who cares. This grown-up Denise is rather — boring — or maybe it’s the unbearable long takes.
A great companion piece since Alicia is pursuing interior design with a passion for antiques but her true passion is to give birth, and that’s what the heart of season three is all about — life.
Alicia’s determination is so strong, she puts her body (and her spirit) through the IVF nightmare and the realization that her insurance company doesn’t know or care how a queer woman might require to achieve motherhood.
It’s here we feel the pain, of trying to achieve life, the audience goes through Alicia’s endless IVF cycles. She eventually achieves her motherhood goals and in the fifth episode, we see her, and Denise in a very adult relationship that is rather, surprising. Naomi Ackie as Alicia makes “Master of None Presents: Moments of Love” interesting and worth watching solely for her performance.
“Master of None Presents Moments of Love” now playing on Netflix.